Dental Hygiene, 2015
I’m a bit ambitious. Whenever I go somewhere, I try to involve myself as much as possible. I wanted to immerse myself into the community, to learn what Canadian culture is about; I wanted to excel in each aspect of college, not just the academics.
Meet Thakkar, a Dental Hygiene graduate from Cambrian College, is definitely a high achiever and a bit of an international star. At his graduation in 2015, Thakkar, who hails from India, earned an advanced diploma and Cambrian’s highest honour, the President’s Gold Medal, in recognition of his academic excellence and his outstanding contributions to the community.
Soon after graduation, Thakkar became a registered dental hygienist and joined a busy dental clinic in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Always an ambitious and involved student, Thakkar’s next step in his career was to set his sights on dentistry. He applied and was accepted to the University of Manitoba’s prestigious College of Dentistry. His admission to a Canadian dentistry school was a well-deserved reward for an individual who’s demonstrated tremendous commitment to dental health and to the overall well-being of others.
At Cambrian, Thakkar was highly engaged in academic pursuits and student life. In addition to maintaining a perfect GPA of 4.0, he was the class representative for his program and the first international student representative on the College’s Board of Governors. He won a Canadian Dental Hygienists Association national student essay contest in August 2013 for writing about student-led oral health advocacy efforts, and he volunteered as a peer tutor on campus, and at a local church. In early 2014, Thakkar was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the College Student Alliance in recognition of his student leadership.
As an international student, his dedicated commitment to the community was motivated by his desire for authentic Canadian engagement. Thakkar studied dentistry for five years in India and is a certified dentist in his homeland, but he chose to pursue Dental Hygiene at Cambrian College because he wanted an international experience. This experience extended beyond Canadian borders, as Thakkar fundraised and participated in class mission trip to Costa Rica, during which Dental Hygiene students volunteered their skills and knowledge to enhance oral and overall health in local communities. All of the students on the trip appreciated the chance to increase their international exposure, and for Thakkar, the trip was another chance to build on his multi-cultural experience.
“I’m a bit ambitious,” he says. “Whenever I go somewhere, I try to involve myself as much as possible. I wanted to immerse myself into the community and to learn about Canadian culture; I wanted to excel in each aspect of college, not just the academics.”
Despite the list of accolades that he’s earned, Thakkar remained modest and generous, helping other international students adjust to campus life.
“When new students would arrive, I would try to help them by guiding them and introducing them to others,” he says. “When I came, I didn’t know anything about this country or city. I don’t even have relatives in Canada.”
Thakkar has gained international recognition for his accomplishments and altruistic endeavours. In December 2013, he was featured in International Student Voice magazine for his academic excellence, passionate approach to promoting oral health care, and extra-curricular activities throughout the community.
Despite hitting a few obstacles during the first couple of months in Canada, Thakkar says his experience has been positive – he even enjoyed the seemingly endless wintry weather that blanketed Sudbury in 2013-14.
“The most valuable thing I learned while attending Cambrian College is how to build new connections and networks,” he notes. “From my experience on the Board of Governors and as a member of its Presidential Search Committee, I have inculcated a new approach to leadership. I also learned how to maintain balance between personal, academic and professional responsibilities.”
He attributes some of his good memories to a local family he met soon after arriving, saying he has become part of their family. Thakkar, a Hindu, even attended Christmas mass with his “new relatives.”
“I’ve had many positive forces,” he muses whimsically. “What I’ve found here is that if you want to achieve anything – if you try, people will notice. It’s been pretty smooth for me.”
Before graduation, Thakkar voiced his ambitious career aspirations, and he’s well on his way to bringing them to fruition. He’s expecting to graduate from dentistry school in 2018, and is considering a specialization in public health, which is perfectly aligned with his mission to improve oral and overall health for all people.